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“For many years we have proposed alternatives like reducing and recycling waste as a participatory process, as opposed to collecting and burying waste. What is new is that now they come up with proposals of incinerating waste. These are proposals born in the Northern countries, but where this is no longer applied”, said Uruguayan engineer Carlos Anido, member of the Secretariat of Labor Health and Environment of the Workers’ Central PIT-CNT.
“The government seems to buy everything that comes from abroad, even incinerating waste” Anido told Real World Radio.
A seminar called “Urban solid waste management: a critical look on alternatives” is held on Thursday in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, with the participation of national and international guests that will analyze the initiatives of social movements and the government’s proposal of waste incineration.
The event is organized by RAPAL Uruguay, the PIT-CNT, REDES-Friends of the Earth Uruguay, the Union of Solid Waste Classifiers (UCRUS), the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and the International Labour Foundation for Sustainable Development (Sustain Labour).
Earlier this year, the mayor of Montevideo, Ana Olivera, announced that a public-private company from Brescia, Italy called A2A, offered to invest 500 million USD to build a new landfill. The business would be in exchange for the commercialization of power that would be produced by the incinerator plant. In February, Olivera together with the mayors of Canelones, Florida and Rivera departments visited Brescia to watch the company’s operations. These actions, which had the support of the national government, motivated social movements and organizations to organize Thursday’s activity. Besides, Anido emphasized that “there is little progress in terms of classification of waste and the local environmental agenda is currently stagnated”.
The social activist said waste incineration is not a solution for waste treatment. He said “urban waste from households has toxic components and to bring them together and burn them leads to polluting emissions”. He added that the commercial idea behind leads to waste generation instead of its reduction because some companies charge for ton of burned waste. “They also (falsely) claim that by burning waste, there is nothing left. There are ashes and those ashes are full of heavy metals and toxics and the city has no place to dispose of them”, they belong in a place especially destined for hazardous waste.
Anido spoke about the lack of transparency in terms of the incineration proposals. He also criticized the “lack of capacity of political representatives to think about the general interest” and questioned that “businessmen and private companies are involved in this”. He believes the real solutions for waste management come from reducing waste generation in the first place. We need to change our consumption patterns. We need to have a responsible consumption. We need to classify and reuse things as much as possible”. There is a problem of the form of civilization, a “use and throw away” culture. Finally Anido said the Municipality of Montevideo had moved forward in environmentally sustainable and socially just solutions, but that work has stopped in his opinion. Now it is under threat of looking for ’easy’ or fast solutions like incineration.
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